Allowance provision must continue: Civil servants

  • Employees say if CIAA employees are entitled to allowances, so are they 
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Jan 24, 2019-

In May last year, the government introduced the “Guidelines on Bringing Austerity and Effectiveness in Public Expenditure”, and one of its provisions called for scrapping most of the incentives under various titles the civil servants were enjoying. 

But on January 17, the government decided that employees of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority would be entitled to 100 percent allowance. 

This move has riled civil servants working in different government departments and agencies no end. Around two weeks before this decision in favour of anti-graft agency employees came, on December 30, officials at the Parliament Secretariat refused to work beyond their office hours—10am to 4pm. This had resulted in rescheduling of hearing of then chief justice nominee Cholendra Shumsher Rana. 

They have been demanding that they should be paid allowances if they work beyond their regular duty hours. 

Now, there are calls from civil servants working under different government agencies for allowances. They were earlier entitled to 50, 80 or 100 percent allowance depending on the nature of services.

A section officer at the Prime Minister’s Office, who refused to be named, claimed that they also work extra hours but they were not strong enough like the CIAA to exert pressure. “There are many such offices where employees have to work odd hours like the PMO and they also need incentives,” he said. 

Government’s austerity measures have not gone down well with employees of various agencies. Officials at the Parliament Secretariat even resorted to protest on January 30, saying they will not work beyond the designated duty hours—10am to 4pm.

“If the CIAA employees are eligible to allowances, why not the employees of sovereign Parliament?” questioned Meghraj Aryal, chairperson of the Federal Parliament Secretariat Employees Union. 

Earlier, Parliament Secretariat staff were entitled to 80 percent of their salary in allowances. Now, stating that theirs is “a unique service”, as they are not transferred and that they have to work even during odd hours, they are demanding at least 50 percent of their salary in allowances.

On November 30, the nine-member Speaker-led Secretariat Management Committee of the Federal Parliament had decided to provide 50 percent allowance on top of their salary for all its employees. But that was not implemented after the Finance Ministry refused to endorse it and has urged the committee to present the proposal at the Cabinet. However, the committee has not yet presented the proposal to the Cabinet as some officials are of the view that the committee itself was the cabinet of the Legislature. Experts say the government cannot take a selective decision while determining allowances and that such incentives must be fair and reasonable. 

“The government scrapped the incentive provision to save expenses and now it is ready to disburse 100 percent allowance to employees of one particular agency. This defeats the whole purpose of controlling the expenses,” Bimal Koirala, a former chief secretary, told the Post. “Such move can perpetuate irregularities. So, the government must carry out a scientific study on allowances and incentives.”

Officials at the Finance Ministry say the government can save up to Rs5 billion by scrapping allowances. “Now with 100 percent incentives for CIAA employees, chances of other civil servants demanding allowance are high,” said an official on condition of anonymity. 

Employees of more than two dozen government entities, including those of the CIAA, were drawing allowances until last fiscal year. They include President’s Office, Vice President’s Office, the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Election Commission, Parliament Secretariat, National Vigilance Centre, Office of the Attorney General and Nepal Rastra Bank, among others. In 2008, then finance minister Baburam Bhattarai in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal Cabinet had introduced the incentive provision to what he called “motivate the staff”. It was then applicable to employees of the Inland Revenue Department and Department of Customs, and the move of disbursing 200 percent allowance was largely aimed at increasing revenue collection and controlling revenue leakages.

Government Spokesperson Gokul Banskota refused to comment on the decision on giving allowance to the CIAA staff, while Binod Kunwar, PMO spokesperson, said he was not authorised to speak on Cabinet decisions.

Published: 24-01-2019 10:05

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